Amazon wants its smart phone to be free, sources claim

Amazon's much-rumoured smart phone could be free, if the retail giant gets its way.

Remember that Amazon smart phone rumour that surfaced a couple of years ago? Well here's something new that'll help the device stand out from the crowd: it could be offered completely free. That's right, gratis. You pay nothing. Nada. Nish.

This is according to people familiar with the matter, Amir Efrati and Jessica E. Lessin report. "But hang on," you're probably saying, "plenty of smart phones are free nowadays." And you'd be right. But Amazon could offer its handset completely gratis regardless of whether you sign up to a new phone contract or not.

There's sure to be a catch somewhere, of course. Amazon makes little or no profit on the devices it sells, but makes its money on the e-books, films, TV shows and music its customers buy to enjoy on them. That's how it can offer its range of tablets and e-readers so cheap. Last year, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos told the BBC: "We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy them." So a free smart phone would definitely be in keeping with its business model.

How would Amazon make money then? Its phone could run a skinned version of Android that puts Amazon's store front and centre, just as its Kindle Fire tablets do. Or maybe it would make you sign up to Amazon Prime, the company's premium delivery service.

The free model is far from set in stone, though. Amazon has started talking to the networks about it in the US, the sources say, although there's no release date set yet.

Other rumours say Amazon's smartie could have a holographic glasses-free 3D screen. Though I think the 3D craze has well and truly passed, so I'd be surprised if that one was true.

Should Amazon offer a free mobile? What's reasonable to ask for in return? Amazon Prime? You can only buy from Amazon? Let me know in the comments, or on our completely free Facebook page.